Friday, September 28, 2007

Driving: Why the Irish Believe in God

I may not be built for vacations. My friend, Linda, told me to be in every moment and not miss a thing. This is a state of being that, no matter how much yoga I take, I may never be able to master. I am constantly worrying about time and repercussions, plans, and what we have to do next. I will never reach a zen state of “now.”

For instance, before we left, I had to worry about Euros and planes, cat sitters and mail, packing and plants. Once we made it to the airport in Minneapolis, I had to worry about Newark. Once on the plane in Newark, I had to worry about getting to the B&B in Dublin. Once at the B&B, I could relax for a couple of days until I had to worry about getting the car. It sounds tedious and worthy of eye-rolling, but for me, it’s a way of life, and it would be more worrying not to worry.

On Friday morning, we were scheduled to leave Dublin. Back home, we had searched through deals and recommendations and settled on Dan Dooley Car Rentals, an Irish company—we wanted to put our money into Ireland as much as possible. Their price was the best and included all the charges up front. I had figured out the insurance issues: we needed CDI coverage, and Ireland is one of the countries not covered by Mastercard, apparently because they think it’s too much of a risk.

I think I may not be built for vacations; I know that I am not build for Irish driving. Everyone was asking us the question “Have you driven in Ireland?” and when we said no, they would look down, shake their heads, and laugh. “It’s hair raisin’,” a fellow guest at the B&B said, and he was born in Ireland and lived here for the first twenty years of his life. No matter how many people said this to us, I thought “Ok, Ok, it can’t be THAT bad.”

I also figured I could start to really focus on worrying about the actual driving once we had the actual car. Right before we left, and after we had confirmed and paid for the car, I read some scathing reviews of Dan Dooley. I was feeling some internal panic about it, but I kept it to myself because there was nothing to be done about it now. I would just have to be vigilant at the car office and try to make sure that our asses were covered without being a bitch.

We caught the bus back to toward the airport. The rental office was right on the way; I had seen it on the trip to the B&B because this was another thing about which I had been worrying. The parking lot seemed rather devoid of cars, but they should know we were coming, right? The woman at the front desk paused and looked out onto the desolate blacktop and said “The only thing we have is that Fiat Panda.”

It was a bright blue, teensy little four door that looked like it might dissolve in the rain like hard candy. Would we even be able to fit our things into it? The guitar, especially, needed to be out of view. Turns out, the little monster was quite roomy inside, much like the Weasley’s Ford Anglia. The guitar fit into the little trunk space along with one other bag, and the rest went into the cabin. There was plenty of room for us as well. Sure, you felt like you were right next to everything outside of the car, especially in front of the car, but, we figured we would be comfortable enough. It was not luxurious, but it was serviceable. I did not even find it too weird to be sitting on the left side of Pete, watching him figure out the controls and orient himself to the right side of the car.

We paid for two drivers, figuring that two weeks was too long for one person to do all the driving. I fully intended to help, but not today. My personality needs time to adjust to new situations. Once I became comfortable with these new surroundings, I would be fine.

Well, driving in Ireland IS hair raising, and for the first day, I was in a state of perpetual terror. It was not the right-hand issue, it was navigation, speed, and road size on top of being on a different side of the road. I had that same tightened chest feeling that I have on airplanes, when I have ceded all control over my destiny. Pete said I was doing a pretty good job of not being in control, so I must also have been doing a pretty good job of hiding it.

You will hear that the Irish are not in a hurry. I would add that they are not in a hurry unless they are in their cars. The speed limits on these tiny winding walled-in roads are far and beyond anything you would see posted on any American roads. I guess if you grow up with it, you are used to it, but I can’t help but wonder how people don’t run into something or someone every single day. Certainly, left-hand mirrors must be removed by hedgerows and walls on a daily basis.

Overall, Pete is doing a marvelous job driving though, my panic notwithstanding. We are used to the left hand thing, though we remind each other out loud every now and then, and he’s negotiating the roundabouts well. We have a great Michelin map and an Ordinance Survey road atlas, but you can look at them all you want. They are often just for show or for a general idea of where things are. When you are down there in the map, you have to just relax out of ever thinking that it will actually help you to find something. The signs are small with tiny writing, inconsistent, and hard to spot, if they are even there. We have found a number of places through my internal GPS and guesswork. We have done amazingly well, considering. You just have to give up the idea that you are in control of where you are going, and you will be fine. It’s growing on me, this country. By that, I mean the way of life. I can use to let go sometimes, and though I will never fully do that—and that’s OK with me—a little moderation of my control freak nature can only be a good thing.

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